'He's enjoyed the people, the scenery' - Barack Obama let composed guard down at times during NZ visit, especially on the golf course

Barack Obama's close companion on his whirlwind tour of New Zealand, former US Ambassador Mark Gilbert, says the President enjoyed letting his composed guard down on the golf course with John Key.

Mr Gilbert was the US ambassador to New Zealand from 2015 to 2017 and helped oversee Mr Obama's three day trip to New Zealand, ending today when he flies to Australia.

Mr Obama met with a group of influential Maori women leaders. Source: 1 NEWS

Having known Mr Obama since 2006, Mr Gilbert says the considered manner the former US President maintains does loosen a bit on the golf course, of which he spent much of his time in New Zealand on.

"He's very competitive and that came out," Mr Gilbert said.

"We played a match on Wednesday, and it was the US versus the Kiwis and believe it or not it ended in a tie. We lost in the second hole of a playoff and it was very competitive."

Mr Gilbert was also in attendance at last nights exclusive 1000 guest dinner with President Obama at Auckland's Viaduct Events Centre.

"The people in the room were very excited to hear from the president. I thought Sam Neill's moderation of the talk was really great and all in all a great night for everyone," Mr Gilbert said.

"Everywhere he's (Obama) gone he's talked about this being sort of a scouting trip for the first lady. He's enjoyed the people, the scenery, the food has been great and he's really got to see quite a bit of New Zealand."

Mr Obama will fly out of New Zealand today for Australia. 

Mark Gilbert said the former US President has been struck by the natural beauty of NZ on his visit ending today. Source: Breakfast



Simon Bridges against compensation for tenants proven to have smoked or cooked meth in Housing NZ home

National leader Simon Bridges is adamant that those Housing NZ tenants found to have used or produced methamphetamine in their homes should not be compensated, saying “what sort of message does that send?”

As many as 800 current and former state house tenants will be eligible for some form of assistance, following a report released by the agency yesterday acknowledging it was wrong to evict them on the basis of P contamination.

That could range from an apology from Housing New Zealand, to cancellation of meth-related debt and repayment, to a grant for household items and moving costs.

Mr Bridges said he had no issue with re-housing or showing compassion on a case-by-case basis.

In cases where it could be proven that tenants had caused the harm to the Housing NZ property by using or producing meth however, he could not go along with compensation.

“I just think where it’s been established that there is illegality, where there is a breaking of the tenancy agreement, re-housing one thing, compensation is a step too far,” he told TVNZ1’s Breakfast.

“I’m sorry, it is not right to compensate those people for what is illegal, what is against their tenancy agreement, what sort of message does that send?”

Asked if the majority of the 800 cases were not people who had used or supplied meth, Mr Bridges said you couldn’t downplay the numbers.

“Ultimately methamphetamine is a scourge on our society, you’re talking about small amounts, I wouldn’t downplay that, the truth is we’re talking about smoking meth, about cooking meth, we don’t want to send messages about those things.”

“I’m not here arguing, saying we shouldn’t re-house, we shouldn’t have compassion on those things, but to write off debts where houses, in some cases, have been wrecked and ruined, and then to compensate for those things, I cannot go along with that.”

Mr Bridges said there was nothing wrong with the test for meth residue that the previous government had used, but it was a matter of standard having been set too low.

“The actual test to establish whether there was methamphetamine there in the house in a level they could pick up, no one is disputing that, not even (Housing Minister) Phil Twyford, he used to try to, he doesn’t now,” he said.

The National leader says it sends a poor message that those found to have cooked or used meth in Housing NZ homes get compensation. Source: Breakfast

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'Eradication, not just a cull' - fierce resistance meets proposed Tahr cull

A proposed cull of South Island tahr is being met with fierce resistance by hunters, with a spokesperson labelling the move nothing short of eradication.

As numbers of tahr continue to swell, the Department of Conservation are taking the steps in order to preserve wildlife and landscapes, although the reason isn't sitting well with hunters, who are now ready to head to the High Court to seek action.

Appearing on TVNZ 1's Breakfast this morning, NZ Tahr Foundation spokesperson Willie Duley came out swinging about the proposed 'Tahrmageddon'.

"What DOC has proposed, what the minister has proposed is eradication, not just a cull," he said.

"The real issue this is highlighted, is that there is no science, they have no science to prove that there is too many tahr.

"What we want to stress, is that there's no need for a knee-jerk reaction such as this."

Instead, Mr Duley proposed a different solution, seeing both groups come together for the good of the region.

"We need to sit down, get all of the stakeholders, do the proper consultation that wasn't done this time by the minister (Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage).

Officials say tahr numbers have to be limited to protect the landscape. Source: 1 NEWS

"She needs to listen to the Game Animal Council, which is her legislation, the statutory body that advises her on game animal issues, and then we'd all be on the same page.

"There is win-win for this, we just want to sit down, and we want a chance to put in a sustainable strategy that looks after the environment, but also looks after this hundred million dollar resource.

"We're talking people's livelihoods on the line.

"Each bull tahr is worth $14,000 alone to the economy. In the first cull, they propose to shoot 3000 tahr, if you do the maths, that's $42m worth of bull tahr left to rot on the hillside.

"That's just wrong."

A crowdfunding campaign by the New Zealand Tahr foundation has raised more than $85,000 in just a few days to fight the proposed move.

A NZ Hunter spokesperson Willie Duley told Breakfast about the damage a proposed cull would inflict. Source: Breakfast


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'See you at Mom and Dad's house' - siblings of US congressman appear in attack ad against him

A candidate running in Arizona's congressional election has received some unlikely support - from the siblings of the current Congressman.

Six of Paul Gosar's brothers and sisters appeared in an ad for Democrat David Brill, where they throw all manner of accusations at him.

Grace says he's doing nothing for rural America, while David says he's not working for his district.

"He is not listening to you, and he does not have your best interests at heart," Tim says - before adding: "My name is Tim Gosar".

It's not the first time Gosar's siblings have spoken out against him.

Last year, they signed an open letter to a local paper after comments he made after the Charlottesville rally.

He replied to the ad in a series of tweets.

David Brill received some unlikely support – from six brothers and sisters of rival Paul Gosar. Source: Breakfast


British Labour Party mulls backing new referendum to stop Brexit

Britain's main opposition Labour Party confirmed Sunday that it will hold a major debate on Brexit at its party conference this week, raising hopes among Labour members hoping to stop the country from leaving the European Union.

With the UK and the European Union at an impasse in divorce talks, many Labour members think the left-of-centre party has the power — and a duty — to force a new referendum that could reverse Britain's decision to leave the 28-nation bloc.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has long opposed that idea, but he and other party leaders are under pressure to change their minds. As delegates gathered in Liverpool, one message was emblazoned on hundreds of T-shirts and tote bags: "Love Corbyn, Hate Brexit."

Ever since Britain voted in 2016 to leave the EU, Labour has said it will respect the result, although it wants a closer relationship with the bloc than the one Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative government is seeking.

Now, with divorce negotiations stuck and Britain due to leave in March, many Labour members think the party must change its course.

"Labour have to come to a decision. The time has gone for sitting on the fence," said Mike Buckley of Labour for a People's Vote, a group campaigning for a new Brexit referendum.

To drive home the message, several thousand People's Vote supporters marched through Liverpool on Sunday, waving blue-and-yellow EU flags alongside Union Jacks and holding signs reading "Exit from Brexit" and a few ruder slogans.

More than 100 local Labour associations submitted motions to the conference urging a public plebiscite, with a choice between leaving on terms agreed upon by the government or staying in the EU.

Party chiefs said Sunday that members and affiliated unions had selected Brexit as one of the priority issues delegates will consider, with a debate scheduled for Tuesday. But what exactly they will vote on has yet to be decided and will be crucial.

Margaret Mills, a delegate from Orpington in southern England, said her local party had passed a motion calling on Labour to "stop Brexit by any means — well, short of physical violence."

"I think the time for vagueness is over," she said.

Corbyn — a veteran socialist who views the EU with suspicion — has long been against holding a second public vote on Brexit, although his opposition appears to be softening.

He said Sunday that he would prefer a general election rather than a referendum but added: "Let's see what comes out of conference."

"Obviously I'm bound by the democracy of our party," Corbyn told the BBC.

Still, Labour faces a major political dilemma over Brexit. Most of the party's half a million members voted in 2016 to remain in the EU, but many of its 257 lawmakers represent areas that supported Brexit.

"For Labour to adopt a second referendum policy would spell political disaster in all those Labour seats that voted leave," said Brendan Chilton of the pro-Brexit group Labour Leave.

Since the 2016 referendum, Labour has stuck to a policy of "constructive ambiguity" in a bid to appeal to both "leave" and "remain" voters. The party opposes May's "Tory Brexit" plan but not Brexit itself. It calls for Britain to leave the EU but remain in the bloc's customs union with "full access" to the EU's huge single market.

Len McCluskey, leader of the Unite trade union, a powerful Labour ally, said British voters had decided to leave the EU and "for us now to enter some kind of campaign that opens up that issue again I think would be wrong."

Yet Pro-EU Labour members, including many lawmakers, say the party's ambiguous stance is becoming increasingly untenable as the risk of an economically damaging "hard Brexit" grows.

The Conservative government's blueprint for future trade ties with the bloc was rejected last week by EU leaders at a summit in Salzburg, Austria. That left May's leadership under siege and Britain at growing risk of crashing out of the EU on March 29 with no deal in place.

Andrew Adonis, a Labour member of the House of Lords who supports holding a second referendum, said Labour can't sit on the sidelines while the country staggers toward political and financial chaos.

"This is as big a crisis as I can remember in my lifetime," Adonis said. "And no one has a clue at the moment what is going to happen.

"That's why I think we now need to take a stand — we the Labour Party and we the country."

Brexit is one of several challenges facing Corbyn, who heads a divided party. He has strong support among grassroots members, many of whom have joined since he was elected leader in 2015. But many Labour lawmakers think his old-fashioned socialism is a turnoff for the wider electorate.

Labour has also been roiled by allegations that Corbyn, a long-time critic of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, has allowed anti-Semitism to fester inside the party. He has denied it and condemned anti-Semitism, but the furore has angered many Jewish party members and their supporters.

Labour backed the "remain" side during the 2016 referendum but Corbyn's support was lukewarm.

"Jeremy Corbyn is a Brexiteer and always has been," said Chilton of Labour Leave. "More and more people now support us leaving the European Union and getting on with it. ... they don't want to re-fight the referendum."

The comments come as the Brexit deadline gets closer, with no deal in sight. Source: Breakfast